The Gospel of Mark, the first of the gospels to appear in written form, presents Jesus going to death in utter desolation, draining the cup of suffering given him by his Father. His enemies viciously reject him; his disciples mostly betray or desert him. Only a few remain as he goes on his way. His cry from the cross is a cry of faith mingled with deep fear and sorrow: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This gospel, taut and fast-paced, brings us into the dark mystery of suffering that Jesus faced. We face it too. This mystery leads to life, a risen life.
The desolation Jesus faced took many forms, some quite hidden from our eyes and understanding. Yes, the cross means physical pain, but suffering can also come from spiritual and psychological experiences. Paul of the Cross spoke of this to a priest of his community who was experiencing the cross of spiritual desolation. God’s grace would lift him up to bring life to someone else, the saint assured him. The mystery of the cross never ends in death.
“From what you tell me of your soul, I, with the little or no light that God gives me, tell you that the abandonment and desolation, and the rest you mention, are precisely preparing you for greater graces that will help you in the ministry for which his Divine Majesty has destined you either now or at some other time. Of that I have no doubt.” (letter 1217)
let me hear joy and gladness,
let the bones you have crushed rejoice…
Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Ps. 51